Jacks or Better Farm, Inc.’s Awesome Belle, Luis Duco Stable, Inc.’s Empire Builder, and Rosa Taveras’ Sr. Quisqueyano are just a few of the locally based stars scheduled to compete in one of the four stakes offered as part of the rich Festival Preview Day at Calder Casino & Race Course on Saturday.
Trained by Stanley Gold, and winner of the $300,000 Susan’s Girl Division of the 2011 Florida Stallion Stakes, Awesome Belle was nothing more than a disappointment through the first half of her 2012 season. After dropping her first eight decisions of the year, seven of which she failed to hit the board in, the filly returned to her winning ways when taking the $75,000 Three Ring Stakes on the Calder main track July 21 at the expense of then-divisional leader Frolic’s Revenge.
The daughter of Awesome of Course followed that streak-halting victory with another trip to the winner’s circle on August 18, this time after a turf victory in the $75,000 Crystal Rail Stakes where she once again bested Frolic’s Revenge.
Off those wins, Awesome Belle has rocketed to the top of the 3-year-old filly division and enters this Saturday’s $75,000 Judy’s Red Shoes Stakes as the likely favorite. Fernando Jara will ride the filly from post one in the 1 1/16-mile turf test, which could be in jeopardy of being moved to the main track as rains continue to inundate the south Florida region.
Starting directly off the right flank of Awesome Belle in Saturday’s stake is her nemesis Frolic’s Revenge, who was 6 ¾ lengths better than Awesome Belle when those two met earlier this year in the $100,000 Calder Oaks but has proven futile in her resistance of that rival in their last two meetings.
Trained by Milt Wolfson for the ownership of Stride Rite Racing Stable, Inc., Frolic’s Revenge began the Calder season with three straight stakes victories, taking the Oaks, the $55,000 Regal Gal by 17 lengths, and the $55,000 Sweettrickydancer to seize control of the divisional race.
The daughter of Vindication’s time at the top was first threatened when losing a nose decision to Awesome Belle in the $75,000 Three Ring, and she was subsequently supplanted at the head of the table when a lackluster fifth behind that return winner in the Crystal Rail.
Frolic’s Revenge will add blinkers for the Judy’s Red Shoes, which will not be the only change of note as jockey Juan Leyva will replace Luis Saez aboard the filly as she tries to reclaim the divisional lead from post two on Saturday.
Filling out the field for a compelling edition of the Judy’s Red Shoes is Peter Vegso’s Obrigeta, second in the Crystal Rail; ARS Racing Stable’s Jazz, third in that same race; Alters Racing Stable, Inc.’s Wicked Night, third against older in the $55,000 Ms Brookski; and Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti’s Fine Silver, a good-looking recent allowance winner.
Michael Sebastian’s Imperial Strike, Virginia and James Gamble’s Montessa G, and Jacks or Better Farms, Inc. Redbud Road are also slated for a start in the race.
If Awesome Belle’s hold on the 3-year-old filly division lead is a bit tenuous, there is little doubt that the top local 3-year-old colt, at least over a route of ground, is the Luis Duco-trained Empire Builder, who enters the $75,000 Needles Stakes, scheduled at 1 1/16 miles on turf, with three stakes victories in his last four starts.
Empire Builder first gained local attention when upsetting the $55,000 Mambo Meister in late May, later validating that somewhat surprising victory by returning to take the $55,000 American Dreamer Stakes in his next start. After taking a step backwards with a puzzlingly poor fifth-place performance in the El Kaiser Stakes, the colt shook off any ill-effects from that outing when coming back four weeks later to win the $55,000 Naked Greed Stakes, on turf, by two lengths.
Starting from post three in the Needles, Empire Builder will be ridden for the first time by Jara, who replaces injured apprentice rider Jonathan Gonzales in the saddle.
Empire Builder will face the usual sophomore suspects in the Needles as the second, third, fourth, sixth, and eighth-place finishers from the Naked Greed, Amaya and Centofanti’s Musical Flair, Joseph Balsamo’s Bellefire, Gary Aiken’s Kings Over, Rohan Crichton’s All Knight, and Christine Garrity and Anthony Amante’s Mr. Espresso, all return for Saturday’s race.
Completing the field is Bryan Hilliard’s lightly raced Fan Base, Vegso’s recent maiden winner Porto, and Signal Hill Farms’ turf allowance winner Mucho Mas Macho.
While Empire Builder is likely to go favored in the Needles Stakes, the horse set to carry the public’s highest expectations on Saturday is likely to be Sr. Quisqueyano, one of nine youngsters entered for the $100,000 Foolish Pleasure Stakes.
Trained by Luis Olivares, Sr. Quisqueyano could not have been more impressive in his three appearances on the Calder main track, breaking his maiden at first asking before returning to make a mockery of both an entry-level allowance and the $75,000 Seacliff Stakes, winning those two races by a combined 26 lengths.
The son of Exclusive Quality will be asked to negotiate the one mile and 70-yard distance of the Foolish Pleasure from post nine, with jockey Jozbin Santana again at the controls.
It’s not often that a Stallion Stakes winner is overlooked in a 2-year-old race at Calder, but that could be the case with Muro, Cheekes, Ferrentino, and Calascibetta Racing Stable, Inc.’s D’nied Permission, who spoiled the unbeaten ways of Two T’s At Two B’s when winning the Affirmed and will look to put a similar fate upon Sr. Quisqueyano on Saturday.
Trained by Joe Calascibetta, D’nied Permission was at his very best when getting up in the final yards to win the Affirmed Division of the Stallion Stakes in his last start. The son of D’wildcat has yet to finish worse than second in his four-race career, although it should be noted that one of his runner-up efforts was a 12 ¼-length allowance defeat at the sword of Sr. Quisqueyano.
D’nied Permission will start from post four under Luis Saez on Saturday, one stall out from Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckday, an impressive four-length winner of the $75,000 Fasig Tipton Dash in his last start that will be ridden by Manoel Cruz.
Others in the Foolish Pleasure field include the twice stakes-placed Billos Boy, the two-time stakes runner-up Joshua’s Comprise, and recent maiden winners Kanturk Kid and Sexy Boy.
Amaya and Centofanti’s Rose to Gold was a bit of a surprise when winning the $75,000 Lindsay Frolic Stakes by 13 lengths in her career debut, although the daughter of Friends Lake will sneak up on no one Saturday when the likely favorite in the $100,000 Brave Raj Stakes.
Trained by Sal Santoro, Rose to Gold will be ridden from post five by Jesus Rios in the one mile and 70-yard main track test, where she will again meet several of the fillies that chased her home in the Lindsay Frolic in Bama Rose Brown Eyed Sue, and Caraquista, along with recent maiden winners Nicki Starshine and Royal Geisha.
First race post time at Calder on Saturday is 12:30 p.m., with the stakes portion of the 12-race program to begin with the Brave Raj as race eight at approximately 3:43 p.m. The Judy’s Red Shoes will follow as race nine at 4:16 p.m. with the Foolish Pleasure to go as race 10 at 4:47 p.m. and the Needles slated as race 11 at 5:18 p.m.
The Festival Preview Day program serves as the local feeder event for the October 13 Festival of the Sun, a south Florida racing extravaganza that features five stakes, including the finals of the Florida Stallion Stakes and the Grade 3 Spend A Buck Handicap, with an estimated $850,000 in purse money to be awarded.